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The Irish Cruiser Racing Association (ICRA) has announced dates and venues for the ICRA National Championships in 2019 and 2020 plus details of its end of year Annual Conference and AGM.

For 2019 the ICRA National Championships will be held in Dublin Bay, hosted by the Royal St George Yacht Club. Allowing time for a tune-up during the domestic spring series or in Scotland for the Kip Regatta and Scottish Series, the Nationals will kick-start an Irish season on the 7th – 9th June, followed by a number of high profile events such as the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race (that sets sails on June 12), Sovereigns Cup (from June 26th to 29th) and Dun Laoghaire Regatta (11th to 14th July).

2020 ICRA Nationals at Royal Cork Yacht Club

In 2020 the Royal Cork Yacht Club holds its 300th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Cork or the Royal Cork's Tricentenary celebrations. To celebrate this significant milestone the 2020 ICRA National Championships will be held in conjunction with Cork Week in July of that year.

Royal Cork Cruiser RacingCruiser Racing returns to the Royal Cork in 2020 with the staging of the ICRA National Championships Photo: Bob Bateman

While no commitments have been made at this time on the location and dates of events after 2020, the committee envisages that the event will return to be hosted by clubs on the East Coast for the following two years.

The annual conference will be held in Lough Derg sailing Club on Saturday the 3rd November. (See more information on the conference below).

ICRA Strategy

One of the key objectives of ICRA strategy is to aim to deliver a 1st class national championships viewed as the pinnacle of inshore yacht racing in Ireland. Over the last 6 months, the ICRA executive has conducted an extensive review with this in mind. This exercise has included direct consultation with members/boat owners in all classes and locations, club representatives across the country, an analysis of where the domestic cruiser racer fleet is currently based including the strength of the
fleet in each region and club and a review of the calendar of events of interest to cruiser racers over the next 6 years.

The following conclusions have been drawn from this exercise:

  1. The rotation of the nationals should reflect where members boats are based. A review of 2017 and 2018 IRC or ECHO certs shows that 59% of members are based on the east coast, 27% on the south coast, and 14% along the western seaboard. While ICRA will of course continue to promote cruiser racing across the whole country, not least through our support of events such as the WIORA championships, the location for the National Championships will be weighted toward the East and South coats over the next few years.
  2. There is a strong demand among boat owners for a standalone National Championship when held in Dublin. Members are concerned to maximise use of their boats during the period that crew are available, with a request to return to a date earlier in the year and a strong preference for June.
  3. In consultation with representatives and owners from clubs on the South Coast, it became clear that it is more difficult task to hold a standalone National Championships event on the South Coast, and that there was a preference for a joint event with established events in the calendar when it takes place on the South Coast.
  4. The Royal Cork Yacht Club hold their 300th anniversary in 2020. The Royal Cork Yacht Club has made a formal request to include the nationals as part of Cork Week that year.

The desire for ICRA moving forward to partner with a major event when holding the National Championships on the South Coast, coupled with the desire to support the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Cork or the Royal Cork's Tricentenary celebrations, led to the decision taken to endorse the event being held in in conjunction with Cork Week 2020.

As such, it was important to the committee that the event is held as a standalone event in Dublin next year, and as such the committee also endorsed that the RstGYC would hold the event in 2019.

A full review of the calendar was undertaken by the committee and the RstGYC, again to ensure that members wishes were reflected that had expressed a desire for a return to date earlier in the year.

A suitable date was agreed as the 7th – 9th June 2019, in order not to clash with other events, and to allow people to take part in the National Championships, before setting off for possible Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race or to Sovereigns Week in Kinsale.

ICRA Conference

The ICRA Annual Conference, will be held in Lough Derg Yacht Club, on Saturday 3rd November, after an invitation to host the event was kindly provided by John Leech. It will include an AGM, for members to elect the ICRA committee that represent them, and to bring the full new constitution into effect. It will also allow time for the current committee to inform members of the proposed strategy for the next five years. The full conference agenda and times will be provided in due course.

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A properly managed race-winning cruiser-racer talks to us. And we, in turn, think in terms of “a well-presented boat” writes W M Nixon. But there’s much more to it than stylish presentation. It’s not enough just to look good. Everything – but everything – needs to be immaculately maintained and working properly, while an almost-automatic rota of timely sail and rigging replacement, together with general maintenance, is always underway in the background.

And all that’s before you get into the complexities of putting together the optimum crew, mainly of amateurs, and planning the most rewarding season’s programme within all the relevant factors and the time available. It’s personnel management and human resources utilisation of a high order. It’s a living three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle of teamwork and personal effort, with changing and developing relationships of genuine friendship on a vehicle which in turn seems like a living thing in her interaction with the sea.

With September upon us, there’s already a sense of the seasonal review in the air, and we can take stock of the half-dozen best-managed boats in Ireland. There could well be a dozen which fit the category – please feel free to add to the total - but for now, the list has been cut down (in alphabetical order) to:

  • Aurelia (J/122, Chris Power Smith, Royal St George YC);
  • Checkmate XV (Humphreys Classic Half Tonner, Dave Cullen, Howth YC);
  • Eleuthera (Grand Soleil 44, Frank Whelan, Greystones SC);
  • Joker II (J/109, John Maybury, Royal Irish YC)
  • Storm (J/109, Pat Kelly, Rush SC & HYC)

And as a Wild Card to make the magic six, we have Harmony (Humphreys Classic Half Tonner, Jonny Swan, HYC).

When we conclude by telling the Harmony story, you’ll see why her preparation and campaigning are in a special One Boat League of its own. But we begin with the Checkmate narrative, as it was communication with new Half Ton Classics Champion Dave Cullen at the weekend, when they were in the midst of their journey home from international success in Belgium, which spurred this collection of reviews.

Only twelve days earlier, I’d been admiring the very complete package which was the campaign-ready Checkmate XV, set up at HYC to depart by road and ferry for Belgium. Yet here they were two Sundays later, well on their way home with the job done and dusted, the big cup on board, and the man himself doing the driving as the complete Checkmate equipe swept through the mountains of Wales on her way to the Holyhead-Dublin ferry.

checkmate trailer2Ready for the road. Checkmate XV at Howth Yacht Club on August 14th. Twelve days later she was back from Belgium, the Half Ton Classics Cup with her. Photo: W M Nixon

Neat it was for sure, but such complete results don’t happen by some happy accident. So while they were still on a high after getting safely home I asked to be emailed a few bullet points on the Checkmate XV way of doing things. The bullet points became an artillery barrage of useful info which goes some way to explain why Checkmate XV wins - for she has already had a consistently successful season in 2018 - and why Dave’s day job as CEO of Euro Car-Parks is so successful that his firm has won “Best Workplace in Ireland” awards. We’ll let him speak for himself:

CHECKMATE XV – Classic Humphreys Half Tonner 1985

Story from Dave Cullen:

“A few random thoughts on how Checkmate XV operates each year. Basically, I try to be an organised person (some might say I’ve OCD), and underlying it all is the fact that I like to have things planned well in advance.

The first thing we do after each race is do a written job list for immediate attention, and then for work over the winter. Once this winter work list is done, I order what is necessary and book in immediately with Alan Power of specialist boatworks Power Marine in Malahide, who does amazing work for us and has never let us down with delivery schedules and special technical challenges. I am always amused when visiting Alan hearing stories of people contacting him in March looking to have jobs done for April launches. They key here is planning ahead and I can get the boat done at the end of season to take stresses off him and us.

half tonners in shed3Where the serious work is done – the Half Tonners The Big Picture (Evans brothers) and Dave Cullen’s Checkmate in Power Marine’s workshop in Malahide. Photo: W M Nixon
I am fortunate to have storage at work for the boat, sails, etc, and we (the crew) do the more fiddly jobs here ourselves over the winter. It is important to have the boat looking well with critical elements like halyards, standing rigging, etc serviced or inspected by the experts, as given the cost of campaigns, a broken halyard can cost a series.

We sail Checkmate XV with antifouling, so launch her with rough finish to harden, lifting a few weeks later to get sanded to race finish. The cheapest boat speed improvement is hull finish, and we get ours to mirror finish with pure elbow grease.

Given time is precious to me, we have a “Nipper” to look after the boat throughout the season. Jonny Sargent gets a fee to look after the boat on a weekly basis, and we have an essential To Do list, the most basic being periodic empty of the dehumidifier, while the boats is always kept clean above and below decks for racing, and stripped weekly of all the stuff that accumulates like 22 bottles of sun cream, 4,000 bottles of warm water, etc.. I say that with tongue in cheek, but it’s amazing the numbers of kilos that do find their way aboard really easily.

dave cullen4Dave Cullen – manager par excellence
There is a huge amount of lifting, launching and work days, so I have to give great credit to my long term bestie Aidan Beggan who mucks in hugely and also sails on the boat. (Ed’s note: Dave & Aidan won the Howth Aqua Two-Handed race in July with Checkmate XV).

As Checkmate XV is an event boat, I have a towing jeep and purpose trailer. I never underestimate the attention these require as a plan can go up in smoke if either fail. The jeep gets a full service in advance of any long trip and I have the trailer fully serviced (Indespension service yacht trailers) once the boat is launched, and both give peace of mind.

Similarly, we are longer than a 40 foot artic truck, so ferry bookings are generally made in January to ensure a place aboard if going abroad. The trailer is loaded with service kit to replace wheels, straps, etc and tool box with relevant equipment. We similarly look at what is required to legally tow through a country and get the relevant equipment/permits. I do the driving as it’s difficult if you’re not used to it, but do check your licence is good for towing.

Many lost their towing licence when renewing to the newer plastic one, and you have to be tested to regain. I also bring the boat to a weighbridge to check if trailer is below the legal 3,500kg when I change boats, and I am now just on border. We plan the journeys that take the least amount of road driving where possible, but are prepared if time’s available to make the trips enjoyable by stopping overnight if there’s somewhere nice to stay and eat, even if it takes an extra day.

Our horsepower is delivered by North Sails, so at the end of each season, we chat through options for replacements and redesign. Sails are also ordered to avail of max discounts.

This is always an issue so at the end of season, we have a get together and I also circulate an email with a draft set of potential events asking crew to indicate potential availability and interest. This is very important to enable people to book family holidays, etc. Once we have a draft plan, we circulate and people can start making arrangements.

We have a panel of crew normally, and usually everyone wants to do the main events, so we have to be a bit cruel at times. At this stage of our continual relationship, the guys know it’s not personal if they are cut. For the Half Ton Cup, at latish notice, we were short a main trimmer, so the search went out for someone that can trim the main but - equally important - could fit in socially. We were really lucky that Darragh O’Connor could join us, and he fitted like a glove from our first night (I mean day) out….

checkmate crew5Winning way – Checkmate’s crew racing off Nieuwpoort. Photo: Fiona Brown
Another consideration is if using a Pro, they need loads of advance notice, so Nin O’Leary was secured at the Half Ton Cup 2017 for 2018….. Our Half Ton Crew consisted of myself on helm, Nin O’Leary as tactician, Darragh O’Connor on mainsheet, Franz Rothschild on genoa trim, Aidan Beggan on kite trim, Jonny Sargent in pit, and Niki Potterton on the bow. We are largely a team that have sailed for many years together, so know how each other operates both on the water and ashore.

When in regatta mode, we set a sensible curfew each night but do enjoy the socials each night. It’s a different story before and after the regatta. Another big factor is practice and we try when possible to get as much practice as possible, including being first on the race course each day. Finally I also like having crew gear for all. It makes us look and possibly feel a bit more professional and organised plus the photos on the water look a lot better.

For each event, we try to hire the biggest house we can (with an entourage of ten) and a chef if necessary. Sleep is an important ingredient so everyone needs a decent bed and food.

We screwed up in the recent Half Ton Cup in not bringing enough lunch on the second day. This made people agitated and “hangry”, so less focussed. Being hungry is not helpful but this is important as much as it is important to get people to drink and stay hydrated, particularly in hot weather. We each have separate water bottles to avoid bugs being passed through a crew, which does happen surprisingly easily.

Clearly, the critical factor is planning. I try to be a very organised person normally, so get as much done in advance and as early as possible. This means if there are upsets along the way, we have more time to remedy any issues.”

aurelia round ireland6Aurelia had her sails optimised by Maurice Prof O’Connell for the 2018 season. Photo: O’Brien

AURELIA – Chris Power Smith

Going into this weekend, Chris Power Smith’s J/122 Aurelia from Dun Laoghaire has won her two most recent major races, she had a very good Round Ireland Race 2018 to place third overall, and she positively glows with lots of owner-given TLC.

Chris Power Smith is a third generation Chartered Quantity Surveyor who has developed several business interests, and originally his sports were scuba diving in the summer (he was one of the most highly-qualified early scuba divers in Ireland) and hockey in the winter. He got into sailing when a group of friends from both sports recruited him as overall organiser in 1994 when they’d chartered a boat for Antigua Race Week. They were lake sailors with no knowledge of navigation, but he could supply it from his diving background, so immediately his role in the Antigua expedition became more than just travel agent, and he has been hooked on sailing ever since.

He worked his way up through crewing with Bruce Lyster on the Sigma 38 Errislannan in Dun Laoghaire, and then personal ownership of a succession of J/Boats. He discovered a new passion for offshore racing when he tried an ISORA event after he’d found Dublin Bay Class 1 racing had become a bit claustrophobic at the extravagant heights of the Celtic Tiger years. By contrast, he reckoned ISORA to be “gentlemanly”. In 2015, after success with a pair of J/109s – “the first one was extremely well used when I bought her, and I mean seriously well used, so after a year or two I bought a brand new one” – he had then bought the J/122 which was to become Aurelia – the “Golden One” – in good second-hand order from France.

michael keatinge francois pean7Aurelia in the  Round Ireland Race, approaching the Fastnet with better than 10 knots on the clock, Michael Keatinge on the mast and Francois Pean on bow. Photo: Chris Power Smith

His first longer offshore race with her was the Dun Laoghaire-Dingle race of 2015, a good debut even if Aurelia was pipped into third place at the finish by the two J/109s Ruth and Mojito. In the Round Ireland of 2016 he was right on line for very significant success until parked in a local calm just north of Rockabill, but if anything this frustration spurred him on to even more committed involvement with the boat, and she has almost always been in the frame since.

With a boat the size of a J/122 (she’s big - a 40 footer with a long waterline) you might begin to expect a boat manager arrangement of some sort, but Chris is very much a hands-on do-it-myself-if-at-all-possible person with - as his sailmaker Maurice “The Prof” O’Connell of North puts it - “an incredible capacity for productive attention to detail”.

niall smythe ger walshe8Back to the east coast after rough sailing in the Atlantic, Aurelia puts Rathlin astern with round Ireland veteran Ger Walsh on the mainsheet and ace helm Niall Smyth steering. Photo: Chris Power Smith

Chris goes beyond meticulous – “preventive maintenance and early replacement” is his mantra, and he is equally careful and thoughtful in assembling his crew: “I’d rather sail a bit short-handed than have someone aboard who is disruptive or counter-productive”. But the short-handed situation seldom arises, as people like sailing with a dedicated, thoughtful and successful skipper, and over the years he has built up a solid crew panel based on his original group of Niall Smyth, Ger Walshe, Lynda McCracken, Duncan Lyster, Jeff Ryan and Stephen Tierney, with the addition, since the step-up to Aurelia, of Bernard McGranahan, Dave McGrew, John McManus, Aileen Kelleher, Francois Pean, Oisin Coffey, and Michael Keatinge with the occasional involvement of John McGonigle, Dave Turner, and Nuala McGranahan.

aureiia crew9Aurelia’s crew after their successful  Round Ireland race, Chris Power Smith third from left. Photo courtesy Chris Power Smith

As to the sailing itself, in 2018 as detailed in he linked in with The Prof to maximise Aurelia’s sail-power and The Prof raced on board for the Round Ireland – “an education in itself in every way”. But Chris himself can have his own clear views on tactics and reckons it was his opinion that successfully kept Aurelia out of the calm-laden bays of Donegal, his motto when calms threaten being: “Never let the ship lose way. If you can see that you’re sailing into a calm patch, take urgent action. If needs be, turn round and sail back – just never, ever lose steerage way”.

ELEUTHERA – Frank Whelan

The biggest boat in our magic half dozen, the Grand Soleil 44 Eleuthera is a 2002-built Judel/Vrolik design which was optimized for racing for the Dutch team in that year’s Commodore’s Cup. Frank and his young crew of mostly Greystones sailors, drawn mainly from dinghy sailing, took her over just as Calves Week 2017 in West Cork got under way, and the experience gained in the final part of that season encouraged them into a work programme with the boat ashore in Greystones during the winter of 2017-2018.

eleuthera bateman10A long way from November nights working on the boat at Greystones Harbour – Eleuthera in winning form at Cork Week. Photo: Robert Bateman

With every boat in today’s list, we find that owners and their amateur crew have been willing to provide the elbow grease in preparation which having a successful boat entails. Admittedly the amounts vary with each boat, and not every owner expects a work contribution from his crew. But forget about any ideas of owners airily handing the boat over to some yard at the end of the season with the instructions to have her race-ready and in perfect order on 1st May. On the contrary, hands-on management is the key in all six boats. And as Patrick Barnwell, Frank’s right hand man and key player in recruiting keen young sailors from among the growing membership in Greystones has in effect put it: “There are few group bonding experiences which will be as effective as working together to bring up the finish on the enormous underside of a 44-footer in Greystones on a November night”.

Yet the reward comes when the sailing gets under way and Eleuthera is sailing at her proper speed, sailed well by a group of tested friends rather than just campaigned by a work party. Age differences melt away as different physical capacities are most effectively accommodated, and special talents are utilised to the full.

Frank Whelan Cork week prize11Frank Whelan receives the Class 0 prize at Cork Week from David Thomas of Volvo Car Ireland

eleuthera crew12It takes a lot of them….Eleuthera’s prize-winning crew at Cork Week
At times, it’s sheer hard work – there’s no doubt about the effort the young sailors put into helping their skipper bring his boat into the overall winning slot in Class 0 on the final day of  Cork Week. This is teamwork of a high order, the successful team for 2018 – ranging in age from 17 to 60+ - including Frank Whelan on the helm, with Patrick Barnwell, Gary Hicks, Conor Clery, Kevin O’Rourke, Killian Fitzgerald, Andrew Smith, Matt Sherlock, Gavin Laverty and Shane Hughes of North Sails.

JOKER II – John Maybury (Royal Irish YC)

One of the most interesting things about the boats on this list is that none is new. John Maybury, an engineer with a special interest in such things, reckons we still don’t really know the full possible lifespan of properly manufactured fibreglass construction of whatever type. And he reckons that his hugely-successful J/109 Joker II – which he bought new in 2007 after several seasons with a Sigma 38 – is probably in as good order now after 11 years as she has ever been.

joker two13Joker 2 with John Maybury on the helm chasing rival J/109 Joggerknot (Andrew Algeo & partners) in Dublin Bay. Photo: O/Brien

But then he is another of those owners who is never happier than when looking after his boat personally. And in tandem with two of his longest-serving crewmates and friends, Jack Mulligan and Brendan Phelan, he shares an encyclopaedic knowledge of how everything in Joker II works down to the finest electronic detail.

Over the years with the boat, they’ve kept out of just slipping into a routine annual sailing programme. They’ve done complete Dublin Bay years, but then in other seasons, they’ve devoted themselves with total dedication into offshore racing, with the ISORA programme – overall runners-up in 2012 – and the Round Ireland Race with a second in class.

Then when they returned to a more inshore-oriented programme, they included former Olympic helm Mark Mansfield of Cork and UK Sailmakers as tactician, and while John Maybury has continued as helm, Mark’s input as tactician has improved their consistency – three annual ICRA National Championship wins in a row speaks for itself.

But equally John is open to other interesting ways of using the boat, and as several of his regular crew – particularly Jack Mulligan – are with or have been in the Defence Forces, negotiations were successfully concluded for Joker 2 to be campaigned with total success by Commandant Barry Byrne and his Defence Forces crew in the inaugural Beaufort Cup series in Cork Week in 2016.

joker two wins fastnet14Multiple roles – Joker 2 under Barry Byrne’s command wins the Fastnet Race in the Beaufort Cup series 2018

This productive relationship was repeated in 2018, but before the Beaufort Cup, Barry Byrne and a Defence Forces crew raced Joker 2 in the Round Ireland Race, placing second overall, winning their class, and winning the Corinthian Prize. This is a narrative which speaks for itself - it speaks volumes for the quality of boat management and a refreshingly healthy attitude to the full possibilities of boat ownership.

STORM - Pat Kelly (Rush SC & Howth YC)

In the rural depths of the coastal country north of Dublin, where the locals think of themselves as being in Fingal while others simply think of it as being the North County, the Kelly family of Rush have their home. And in the midst of it is a mighty shed which has many functions, and one of them is to provide a winter home and workshop for their hugely successful J/109 Storm.

storm irish champs15Pat Kelly’s J/109 Storm, seen here being raced by family and friends to become Irish Champions in October 2017, has this year won the Scottish Series and the Welsh IRC Championship. Photo O’Brien
There, Storm receives meticulous refits as a matter of course, and as one awestruck observer has put it, every other winter the Kelly family – three generations of them now actively involved – take their successfully-used boat apart with crewmembers helping, and reassemble her again in perfect working order in the sort of work programme which can only be fully understood by those who know boats inside-out.

Then each year they devise an annual programme which always has unusual twists to take advantage of the boat’s race-winning potential while introducing her mostly family crewmembers to new places and people, while at the same time doing enough home fixtures to stay with - and usually ahead of - the Irish pace. Thus in 2018 they spent much of May in Scotland mopping up prizes here and there with a successful conclusion by winning the Scottish Series, but by June they were back in Ireland and while they’d to concede first overall in class to Andrew Algeo et al in the J/109 Joggerknot in the Wave Regatta at Howth, within it they won the Lambay Race, which - for a Fingal boat – is what it’s all about.

kelly shed16Pat Kelly’s big shed in Rush is ideal for boat work – here, it is in use for the Half Tonner Harmony

Came August and they saw the potential of the Welsh IRC Championship at Pwllheli, and took part in the decidedly rugged racing with such success that they came home as the new champions, and the next main item on the agenda will be defending the J/109 Irish Championship won in October 2017.

There’s a special family warmth and generosity of sprit around Storm and the Kelly family which is inspiring, and our final listed boat and skipper and their 2018 campaigning were to become beneficiaries of it in a big way.

HARMONY – Classic Humphreys Half Tonner (1980) Jonny Swan, Howth YC

They say that Jonny Swan lives up to his surname - in high- level contests, he can seem to be winging it with some very tight time margins in preparing for his campaigns. But after his successes in 2018, which included being overall winner of the all-comers Harbour Race in Cork Week and coming a good second in the Half Ton Classics in Belgium as well as always being in the frame in other major events, we felt that his boat management style deserved celebration, as he represents an enthusiastic younger generation in the ranks of cruiser-racer owners.

harmony running hard17Harmony going for it in Belgium – only a fortnight previously, she was still being worked on in the shed in Ireland. Photo: Fiona Brown

Originally in financial services, he now runs a renewable energy company, Harmony Solar. His path into sailing has been the classic Howth route of Mirrors, Howth 17s and nearly fifteen years as frequent crew with Terry Giles on the successful X-302 Xebec, while he also became a feature of Shannon One Designs down on the lakes. Always remembering that Harmony is the only wooden boat in our Special Six, we’ll let him tell his own story: 

“I have sailed competitively since I was a kid, however, I had never put together a crew and campaigned a boat with eight crew before. I sailed with Terry Giles for many years and Terry always put together a great season, so I was well educated by him by the time I bought my first keelboat. I acquired the 1980 Harmony in 2014 from in Sligo. There was a substantial amount of work required to make the boat competitive.

As with all wooden boats, there is constant upkeep and in the first year or two, there was a lot of upgrading to be done, with the major work being done by Dougal MacMahon in his classic boat workshop at Belmont in County Offaly, while a new rudder was supplied by John Corby from Cowes. During the season, all the crew do what they can with the inevitable “To Do” maintenance lists, and longtime shipmates Edel Harvey and Eamonn Bourke are especially helpful in this area.

These days, in the winter the boat is kept in my husband Frank Rowe's family farm in County Wexford, which keeps her undercover sheltered from the elements. Frank does a lot of the winter maintenance and sails on the boat when he is not running marathons or competing in triathlons and is very supportive of the campaigns.

With work and family commitments for all involved, it is very difficult to sail the boat weekly. Usually, myself and Joe Turner meet in January over a few drinks to formulate a plan for the season ahead, and get agreement from the crew which events we intend to do. This year it was agreed to do the Scottish Series in May, Wave Regatta in June, Cork Week in July and the Half Ton Cup in Belgium in August. It takes a substantial amount of commitment and organisation to arrange to get the boat to the starting line of each event, especially when towing the boat to events on the continent.

cork week harbour race winners18Harmony’s crew after winning overall in the Harbour Race at Volvo Cork Week were (left to right) Ryan Glynn, Nigel Young, Gareth Kyne, Jonny Swan, Edel Harvey, Eamonn Bourke, Joe Turner and David Kelly

After Cork Week and in the lead up to the 2018 Half Ton Cup in Belgium, she was in need of some TLC and urgent replacement of faulty deck paint, and David Kelly of Storm (son of Pat) said I could drop her up to the famous “Storm Workshop” in Rush and his own son David (who at 17 was the youngest member of Harmony’s crew in Cork) and himself would help me out to do what was needed in advance of the Half Ton Cup. With the Kelly family’s high standards, it became a major refit, with the deck stripped right back and then re-sprayed, and the anti-fouling re-sprayed and re-surfaced too.

Three weeks of work every day with marathon work from David Jnr and his family along with the Harmony crew, and the boat was ready four hours before the ferry was due to depart to start the journey to Belgium.

harmony bare decks19With only a couple of weeks to the start of the Half Ton Classic Cup in Belgium, this was Harmony’s deck….Photo: Jonny Swan

When we arrive at an event, all of the crew pull together to get the boat launched and set up. For the event, we are all a team that help each other out as any team player would do. We sail together, socialise together and have a great time. There is never a cross word between us which makes the event a fun and enjoyable occasion. This is a key part to achieving what we are all there to do.

For the Half Ton Cup in Belgium, I had the following crew:

Edel Harvey- 37 (RIYC) She has done bow since 2014
David Kelly- 17 (HYC/ RSC)
Joe Turner- 41 (HYC) Sailed since I got the boat
Eamonn Bourke-26 (HYC) sailed for 3 years
Ryan Glynn- 23 (Ballyholme) sailed for 3 years
Nigel Young- (RCYC)
Jonny Swan- 37 (HYC)

While it is my boat and the underlying responsibility for the boat is mine, I believe the boat is the crew’s also, and I hope that every crew member feels this way, because it creates a great team environment which definitely enhances the overall performance. It is important to note that most of the crew take over half their annual leave to participate in events during the year. So it has to be more than anything fun and enjoyable because the crew are making a considerable commitment.

I regularly offer the boat to the crew to do any events they want to do when I can’t be there myself, and in 2017, the younger generation did the ICRA Nationals in heavy wind conditions at the RCYC, and they came an excellent 2nd overall helmed by Ryan Glynn.

Road delivery team20The glorious madness of it all – with only minutes to spare in any direction, the Harmony Road Team setting off for Belgium are (left to right) Gerry Daly, Eamonn Bourke, Ryan Glynn and Jonny Swan
Having bought the boat when I was 33, I have been incredibly lucky and privileged with the quality of crew who have joined and continue to sail on the boat. The boat would not have achieved the results she has done under my ownership without them all. We are simply a great bunch of friends, and always make everyone feel part of the team. The camaraderie of the Harmony team is special, and this is one of the keys to the results we have achieved over the last few years.

But no campaign or event can run smoothly without extra support, and there are definitely a few standout people and organisations who have supported our campaigns and events towards success. I made the decision earlier this year to move to North Sails Ireland. Nigel Young and Shane Hughes have been superb. I cannot thank them enough for all they have done, and having Nigel on board in Cork Week and the recent Half Ton Cup in Belgium was a great addition to Harmony. His input contributed to the best result I have achieved out of the four Half-Ton Cups I have competed in, and also a significant result in Cork Week where we won the famous All-Comers Harbour Race by a comfortable 2 minutes from over 90 boats that started on the one start line.

harmony on ferry21At last, a chance to rest….Harmony is safely onto the ferry in time for the first stage of the journey to Belgium. Photo: Jonny Swan

Ross McDonald in Ropedock has been an excellent addition to the marine industry. He is helpful and efficient. And there’s Howth Yacht Club and all their support. As for the Kelly family in Rush with all the hard work done to the boat in advance of this year’s event in Belgium and their warmly supportive attitude, that definitely contributed hugely to the overall result. Then there’s Gerry O'Daly, who was part of the crew when we won Dun Laoghaire Week in 2015. Although he lives in Sligo, he’s a superb support with the logistics, and the boat could not do some of the events without his help – if needs be if time is short for everyone else, he gets up at crack of dawn to tow the boat to the various events for us.

Lastly and firstly and most importantly - the crew. Without a dedicated crew, the boat cannot begin to be a success, and every one of them has contributed to the results we have achieved - Harmony is privileged to have had every one of them on board”.

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Following the cancellation of the ICRA Nationals in Galway last Friday and the explanation on the event Facebook page here, the reigning Class One Champion John Maybury, of J109 Joker II, says it is the fact that the Port of Galway is lock–gated, and not the weather, that made a 'complete nonsense' of the Galway Bay event.

I’m angry about the cancellation of the Nationals, to say the least.

The fundamental issue was the venue and whatever politics were involved in bringing it to Galway in the first place. With the lock gates and priority to commercial shipping traffic, there was no way Galway was going to work for the National Championships.

The conditions we got would not have posed much of a problem at any other normal venue, and the championships would have been run.

My own objection to Galway in the first place was simply the distance involved in getting there from Dublin Bay. But I took the point about the West Coast boats wanting to 'bring it local', and I decided to make the effort and support the event.

ICRA Galway Docks 0047John Maybury's Joker II among other ICRA competitors at Galway Docks for the ill–fated championships Photo:

I didn’t know about the lock gates until last week. But ICRA knew and went ahead regardless. At best, this was absolutely thoughtless. At worst, it was selfish and arrogant.

It is the fact that the Port of Galway is lock gated, and not the weather, which made a complete nonsense of the event.

Shipping Galway Docks 0061Ships alongside at Galway Docks Photo:

When I called last week to ensure there would be a berth for Joker 2 on her arrival, I was dismayed to find the Port of Galway was gated, with access only for two hours before each HW. On querying that with a member of the Organising Committee, I was told that it would not be a problem for the event as arrangements had been made with the Port to ensure the gate would be open for 3 hours either side of HW during the event and the schedule of racing had been planned accordingly.

It turns out that the arrangement with the Port, wasn’t worth the paper it was written on, as the movement of shipping dictated everything. Surely this was a predictable risk for a commercial port, but it doesn’t seem to have been taken into consideration by ICRA in the selection of the venue?

Contrary to the spin being propagated, the weather was not the reason for the fiasco. With the same conditions in almost any other venue, the fleet would have been racing on Thursday and on Saturday and a proper Championship would have been completed. (Saturday turned out to have excellent sailing conditions, despite the podcast in circulation. See here)

The spin being put about is that it was the victim of a Perfect Storm of unlikely events. On the contrary, I think it would have needed all the planets to have aligned for it to have passed off smoothly. They were never going to get that. Knowing the Port as I do now, what happened was entirely predictable. I am sure ICRA were aware of the constraints of the venue. Any objective risk assessment would have ruled it unsuitable for a National Championships.

Joker TrailerWide load – John Maybury's triple ICRA Champion yacht Joker II is coming back to Dublin from Galway by road

To ignore the risks and carry on regardless was a massive display of arrogance, and shows a complete disregard for the time, expense and effort involved by owners and crew to compete from any distance with anything other than a trailerable boat.

I would expect ICRA to carry out an objective post-mortem on all of this. There are painful lessons to be learned and actions to be taken. The decision by ICRA to go to Galway has been demonstrated to have been pure folly.

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The 2018 ICRA Championships has again fallen victim to the strong winds on Galway Bay this morning.

The 53-boat fleet gathered in Galway Docks have been waiting for a break in the weather since Wednesday for the first ever staging of the combined WIORA and ICRA Championships by Galway Bay Sailing Club.

The Race team headed by two International Race Officers Alan Crosbie and David Lovegove now aim to complete a series of three championship races on the final day of racing tomorrow, Saturday, with a first gun at 0925.

ICRA Yachts Galway docks 0025ICRA yachts at Galway Docks Photo:

However, should winds abate, there is some frustration over the restricted access to the race area due to the opening times of Port of Galway lock gates that is beyond the control of the championship organisers.

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The Galway Bay based Marine Institute has presented competitors in the 54–boat ICRA Cruiser Racer National Championships currently being hosted by Galway Bay Sailing Club with a large A1 sized full colour poster illustrating the seabed imagery of the Bay derived from INFOMAR Mapping, the national seabed mapping programme undertaken jointly by Marine Institute and Geological Survey of Ireland.

Galway Bay is one of the first Irish coastal inlets to have been fully mapped by INFOMAR.

While the data are primarily used for safe navigation and shipping, they also provide invaluable information for fisheries management, environmental conservation, and strategic development programmes.

While as sailors we rely on our admiralty charts, pilot books, and more increasingly on our digital navigation software apps to get us safely around the coast, this modern era of seabed mapping data now enables production of high resolution oceanographic models, and reliably predictive tides and currents.

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The first race of the ICRA Championships in Galway has been cancelled today due to strong winds on Galway Bay.

The 54-boat fleet, moored in Galway Docks, was expecting an early start and as many as four races this morning after Wednesday's opening races of the WIORA championships were also cancelled due to strong winds.

Race officersThree of Ireland's six international race officers at Galway Docks for the ICRA National Championships. From left, Olympic Race Officer Jack Roy who is attending in his capacity as Irish Sailing President and Alan Crosbie and David Lovegrove, both of whom are officiating at the cruiser–racer championships Photo:

The Galway Bay Sailing Club race management team are keeping a close eye on weather forecasts to complete a minimum of three races in order to constitute a championships series by Saturday.

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With three-times-in-a-row class champion Joker 2 (John Maybury, Royal Irish YC) set to defend her title for an unprecedented fourth time, the Irish Cruiser Racing Association Nationals in Galway next week will be making history at least twice over in its first staging at the heart of the Atlantic seaboard. W M Nixon sets the scene.

The western rampart which is Ireland’s Atlantic seaboard is imbued with a truly heroic quality. Thrusting into an often hostile ocean, it can be totally off the scale of normal experience, and inevitably it has produced seafarers whose achievements continue to astonish the rest of us.

From ancient times, we think of St Brendan the Navigator and other voyaging monks. Myth and actuality may intertwine in the myriad stories of who did what and when, but there’s no doubting that such people did exist, and they definitely sailed long distances in small craft. It is also suggested that in 1492 in his pioneering Transatlantic voyage, Christopher Columbus had a sailor from Galway, one William Ayres, in his crew. And in a slightly more recent era, who could be more modern - a true role model for our times - than Granuaile, Grace O’Malley herself, the fearless Pirate Queen of Connacht, a magnificent woman who preferred to live afloat?

irelands atlantic coast2Not a place to be trifled with – Ireland’s Atlantic seaboard

Set against such legends, it might seem to be stretching things to make modern comparisons. But there’s no doubting that today’s sailing achievements by Connacht mariners are much greater than the area’s population would lead us to expect. Think of what has been done on the oceans by Jarlath Cunnane of Clew Bay in Mayo. Or Bill King of Galway Bay itself. And more recently, we have the unsinkable successes against the adversity of Enda O'Coineen

enda ocoineen pirate3When everything becomes permissible – Enda O’Coineen on his return to Les Sables d’Olonne in April after completing his two-stage two-boat voyage round the world
There’s something very special in the air west of the Shannon. So from time to time, it behoves the Irish sailing community to acknowledge this, and one effective way to do so is to stage the annual Irish Cruiser Racing Association National Championship in a truly western venue.

And where better than in Galway city itself, where you’ve excellent sailing and racing water as soon as you exit through the dock entrance? That said, selecting a venue and format for the annual Irish Cruiser Racing Nationals is always a real challenge in itself. And to solve it, there are those who say the simple option would be to incorporate the championship in Volvo Cork Week or the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta in one year, depending on which one is being staged, and then in other years have it within the Wave Regatta in Howth, or the Sovereign’s Cup in Kinsale.

galway dock4Galway Harbour in festive mood

But this almost entirely misses the point of what a National Championship is all about. All major sailing events are special. Yet a National Championship is extra special. It ultimately confers a recognised title on the winners and implies that certain strict standards have been met in the staging of the series.

Regattas, or more relaxed events like the Calves Week in West Cork during the past four days, tend to put the social side on a par with the sailing. However, in a National Championship, the sailing is paramount, even in hyper-hospitable Galway. Thus although some of the smaller One-Design classes in the enormous Dun Laoghaire Regatta do designate their racing as their Leinster Championship or even their National Championship, it would be an embarrassment if the many cruiser-racers involved were to find that they were sharing their racing with competitors who saw themselves as seeking that extra edge which the Nationals require.q

kenny read galway5Galway works its crazy magic with everyone – this is top American skipper Kenny read exiting Galway Docks to sail on in the Volvo Ocean Race. Photo VOR

In fact, the organisers of Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta have made it clear that the last thing they need on their very crowded agenda is the extra burden of a full-on National Championship. So a format in time and place has to be found whereby the more serious cruiser-racer enthusiasts in ICRA can have their demands for a genuine stand-alone National Championship met, and at the same time they have to accommodate the fact that dedicated cruiser-racer ownership now extends far beyond the Cork-Dublin axis on which ICRA was founded back in 2002, when the initial meeting was held in the Granville Hotel in Waterford, and the first conference was staged in Kilkenny.

In 2018, life is moving so fast that 2002 is indeed a different country. Back then, the Cork-Dublin focus agreed between ICRA founders Jim Donegan and Fintan Cairns carried its own irrefutable logic at the time in terms of boat numbers and distribution. And in any case, they and their supporters could more or less make up their own scenario as they went along, for in the intense world of dinghy and inshore keelboat competition, the young Turks – male and female alike - tended to dismiss the cruiser fleet contests as “truck racing”, seeing it as something which they could approach with little seriousness, if they bothered with it at all.

Fast forward sixteen years and the scene is very different. A classic case in point, analysed in detail here recently in, is the way in which the dinghy sailors of Greystones have created a dynamic interaction with owner-skipper Frank Whelan to make the Grand Soleil 44 Eleuthera into one of the hottest boats on the Irish coast in 2018. Not only one of the hottest cruiser-racers of the season, but a matter of intense interest to keelboat and dinghy sailors alike.

Xp50 freya6The largest entrant in the ICRA Nats in Galway will be Conor Doyle’s new Xp50 Freya from Kinsale (photo of prototype)
As for generally introducing people to sailing, ICRA has been a pace-setter. Former ICRA Commodore Nobby Reilly of Howth was an early experimenter with various Try Sailing ventures which became test runs for Irish Sailing. He was very keen to increase the crew pool with Sailing Introductory Days, knowing that from such a pool would come both new owners and new sailors. But he knew well that in modern life with its many distractions and rival attractions, cruiser-racing would have to make itself much more welcoming, much more beginner-friendly, in order to attract newcomers, and - more importantly - to keep them with the sport.

All of this was going on while the elephant in the room was growing ever larger. This particular elephant is the fact that cruiser fleets are increasing along the Atlantic seaboard, and if ICRA really is the national cruiser racing association, then from time to time the venue for its nationals has to reflect this with a major western fixture.

An acknowledgement of this was made when the 2013 Nationals were staged in Tralee Bay. It fitted in well with the annual programme as it came close on the heels of the biennial Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race. But unfortunately the weather was very poor, and though the gallant Bob Bateman got some spectacular images when the sun was showing between giant rain-squalls, many races were lost altogether, and they barely mustered the quota to get a result.

icra nats tralee bay7Sunshine between the squalls – the ICRA Nats 2013 at Tralee Bay briefly enjoyed conditions like this. Photo: Bob Bateman
Since then, the annual ICRA Nats have been confined to venues between the Old Head of Kinsale on the South Coast, and Lambay island on the East. Yet as each local sailing centre continues to actively promote its own time-honoured regatta, finding a space to fit in an ICRA Nationals – with all its required resources of qualified administrative personnel – has sometimes been challenging.

And the growing fleets on the West Coast simply aren’t going away. On the contrary, they’re still growing, and they’re bringing fresh enthusiasm at a time when the established east and south coast centres are finding their fleets marking time as more boats move south to France, Spain and the Mediterranean, to avail of cheap flights, economical berthing, a more reliable climate, and the immediate feeling of enjoying recreation.

Thus the Irish sailing community should be grateful to the sailors of the Wild Atlantic Way for the fresh enthusiasm they’ve injected into the sport, with current ICRA Commodore Simon McGibney of Foynes Yacht Club a pace-setter in getting young people into the J/24, which has given sterling service as the entry boat for ICRA racing.

mcgibney and roy8Simon McGibney – who is Commodore of both ICRA and WIORA – with Irish Sailing President Jack Roy at the first staging of the WIORA Championship in the Aran Islands, July 2016

Yet when McGibney and other West Coats folk promoted Galway as the venue for next week’s 2018 ICRA Nationals, there was unease in some quarters. It may all be a lovely idea for smaller craft which can be trailed to the event, but for bigger boats – particularly those from Dublin - the logistical challenges of having your boat halfway round Ireland in late August are obvious.

But the growing western input had increased over the years, with the ICRA National Conference being moved to Limerick. East coast sailors may think of it as a west coast location, but in all-Ireland terms, Limerick is arguably the most central major population and economic focal point in the country.

Certainly, the ICRA Conferences staged there have been fruitful in developing a growing organisation which, in addition to administering and expanding cruiser racing at home, was much involved with Ireland’s winning of the Commodore’s Cup in 2010 and again in 2012.

The enormous range of international experience which ICRA can draw from within its own ranks will be of added relevance in future as the likelihood of offshore racing being included in the Olympics becomes more likely. But for now, in 2018, the primary target is a successful staging of the ICRA Nationals in Galway

j24 simon mcgibney9Simon McGibney nicely placed in J24 competition with Gala Racing
Being a recognised national association carries its own special responsibilities, and it has been broadly recognised and accepted that it is right and proper that Galway should have its opportunity to stage the Nationals, for this is a mighty port which has contributed enormously to Ireland’s maritime life in general and sailing in particular.

Yet to do this, the Galway sailors have had to be prepared to sail all the way to Ireland’s east and south coast ports in order to take part in major national events, with the late great Dave Fitzgerald starting the trend by bringing Partizan to the first Round Ireland Race from Wicklow in 1980. He was to be followed in due course by Donal Morrissey with the special and much-travelled GK 34 Joggernaut, and from the Morrissey initiative there have spread out other campaigners, with Galway boats such as the Dubois 33 NowWhat (Lauren Heskin & Jim Grealish) an East Coast regular, while the university students of Galway should never be under-estimated in their endeavours at national cruiser-racing level, which eventually culminated in post-grad skipper Aodhan Fitzgerald of Galway winning overall in the Round Ireland in 2008, and his initiative has now been taken up by Aaron O’Reilly.

Other Galway sailors regularly trekking either by road or sea for competition elsewhere include Liam Burke who logged the miles first with the Corby 25 Tribal, and now does it with a Farr 31 of the same name. At the other end of the size scale, the intrepid adventures of Enda O’Coineen in the Open 60 class have inspired many, not least Joan Mulloy of Westport who currently races in the Figaro class but has hopes herself to take on the Vendee Globe mantle. And before all that, there was of course the joint initiative by Enda O'Coineen and the quiet man of the west, John Killleen, successful in their bid to bring the Volvo Ocean Race to Galway, while John Killeen also showed what could be done by organising the building in Galway city with Dan Mill of the mighty performance cruiser Nimmo, which started out to be an Open 60 in cruiser form, but ended up as very stylish 68-footer which turns heads wherever she goes.

john killeen nimmo10Built entirely in Galway – John Killeen’s handsome 68ft Nimmo. Photo: Jim Grealish

So this is the place where the ICRA fleet is now gathering for a programme and facilities lineup which has been put together by a team including ICRA/WIORA Commodore Simon McGibney, ICRA Hon Sec Denis Kiely, Event Chairperson Martin Breen, Galway Bay SC Commodore Gary Allen, and many others.

To meet the requirements of a National Championships, they have the services of three internationally recognised race officers and their own teams in the persons of former ISA President David Lovegrove of Howth, Alan Crosbie of Kinsale fresh from running Calves Week in West Cork, and former GBSC Commodore Dave Vinnell who will be in charge of the White Sail Fleet.

With entries through the 50 mark at 53 boats as we post this, with Garry Allen reckoning they’ll hit the 55 as the racing gets underway, the required critical mass has been comfortably met, and we’re looking at one mighty interesting assembly, with the Queen of the fleet already in port. This is Conor Doyle’s new Xp50 Freya from Kinsale, and her early presence in Galway irresistibly reminds us of how Conor’s uncle the great Denis Doyle with his peerless Frers 51 Moonduster arrived in Wicklow in ample time for the start of the 1982 Round Ireland race, and thereby set that classic event on the high road to longtime success and inclusion in the RORC programme.

There’s a contrast in style and size, but not in significance of presence, in the entry by Anthony O’Leary of Royal Cork YC – captain of the winning 2012 Commodore’s Cup team – with his modified 1720 Antix Bheag. A normal 1720 Sportsboat doesn’t comply with IRC regulations, but with a clever little cabin added, she becomes ICRA-eligible, and Antix Bheag’s progress through the week will be watched with fascination.

However, at the small boat end of the scale, all the muscle will be with the J/24s. They had seven boats racing in Division 4 at the ICRA Nationals in Crosshaven in 2017 with Daragh McCormack of Foynes (winner this year of the recent Mermaid Nationals at his home port) taking the title with Stouche, they’ve seven again in Galway with the emphasis on youth right across the board if you accept that seasoned campaigner Flor O’Driscoll of the Royal Irish YC is the very personification of eternal youth.

hard on port11Eternal youthful enthusiasm – Flor O’Driscoll’s J/24 Hard On Port

His presence in Galway further reinforces the fact that the Royal Irish YC is best represented of the clubs from beyond the western seaboard, with their challenge spearheaded by the extremely busy J/109 Joker, which has already won the Corinthian Division in the Volvo Round Ireland race and the Beaufort Cup in Volvo Cork Week under Commandant Barry Byrne’s captaincy, and is now back with the “old firm” of John Maybury of Dun Laoghaire and Mark Mansfield of Crosshaven to see can they make it four in a row in the ICRA Nats.

Conveniently-trailed boats such as Corby 25s and Quarter Tonners are on the line including ICRA Vice Commodore Richard Colwell’s Corby 25 Fusion from Howth, and the Quarter Tonners Cri-Cri (Paul Colton) and Quest (B Cunningham and J Skerritt RIYC), while the top Half Tonner at Cork Week, Ronan and John Downing’s Miss Whiplash RCYC), is very much on the strength and would be a good tip for another of the national titles.

In terms of spread of entries, it’s a revelation for east coast sailors, as the most northerly entries have come all the way from Sligo Bay with Sean Hawkshaw’s Sigma 33 Wardance from Mullaghmore, while Conor Ronan’s Corby 26 Ruthless is from Sligo YC itself.

Mayo SC in Clew Bay is sending Gerry Daly’s Elan 31 Crozz, John O’Brien’s Dufour 365 Shonagh, Duncan Sclare’s Achilles 9 Freebird, and John Gordon’s X332X-Rated, while both sides of the Shannon Estuary at Foynes and Kilrush will have strong contingents taking on the Galway Challenge.

And being Galway Bay, we also have a fresh-water entry from nearby Lough Derg with Kieran Ruane’s Sun Odyssey 32.2 Christina from Garrykennedy.

galway bay sailing12Gentle racing conditions in Galway Bay with the mysterious hills of The Burren beyond

It’s not easy running the Irish Cruiser Racing Association. A thriving land-based specialist national sailing organisation with its membership spread along every coastline and through the lakes will almost invariably have locations in more distant parts which feel they aren’t getting a fair crack of the whip in hosting major events.

Yet would a tendency to centralise major events, as they do in the UK sailing with the Solent, be suited to Ireland’s fleet distribution and fierce local pride? It would seem that ICRA has to find its own way, difficult and all as it can be. And next week, sailors of goodwill everywhere will be wishing the ICRA Nationals 2018 in Galway the very fairest of fair winds.

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'Provisional' divisions released today for the 53–boat ICRA National Championships fleet show a spread of ten or 11 boats per class for the Galway Bay event that begins next Thursday, August 16th.

As reported earlier today, Dublin and Cork boats are already on their way to Galway this weekend, by road and sea, and there will be defending and/or former ICRA and WIORA champions in each of the five divisions.

Scroll down for full divisions list is published below.

In ten-boat class one, long-standing champion Joker II, the J109 sailed by John Maybury of the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire will be defending his title for the third year in a row. Untypically this season, Maybury lines up against only one other sistership. Glenn Cahill, a former WIORA champion and a runner-up in 2017, will compete in the Galway Bay based J109, Joie de Vie.

The biggest boat in the championships, Conor Doyle's brand new Danish-built XP50 Freya from Kinsale, has already arrived into Galway Docks where the fleet will be moored.

Grand_Soleil_Nieulargo_Denis_MurphyDenis Murphy's Grand Soleil Nieulargo competes in Class One Photo: Bob Bateman

Denis Murphy's Nieulargo, a Grand Soleil 40, that dominated Kinsale's Spring Series, and more recently played a leading role in the Beaufort Cup at Cork Week in July, is a tough class one competitor from the south coast, especially when the breeze is on.

Four other national titles will be decided along with the West of Ireland regionals which kick off what promises to be an exciting few days of racing from Wednesday 15 August.

Half Tonner Miss WhiplashHalf –Tonner Miss Whiplash competes in class two. Photo: Bob Bateman

In a ten-boat class two, the current WIORA west coast champion Tribal, a Farr 31 skippered by Liam Burke, from the host club, will defend her western title after five straight wins on the Aran Islands last year. The ICRA event chairman Martin Breen competes himself in the Dehler 37, Port of Galway while two potent entries are in from Royal Cork. Former ICRA champion and double Commodore's Cup champion Anthony O'Leary is in action in the customised 1720 Antix Beag.

Elan 333 Artful DodgerElan 333 Artful Dodger (Finnbarr O'Regan) competes in Class Two Photo: Bob Bateman

Also, from Crosshaven is the Cork Week Class three winner, John Downing's Half Tonner Miss Whiplash. From Sligo, Ruthless, the Corby 26 is entered by Conor Ronan.

Disarray Ray mcgibneyRay McGibney's Disarray from Foynes Yacht Club Photo: Bob Bateman

In an 11-boat class three division, from Foynes Yacht Club, Ray McGibney's Disarray, a past WIORA champion, that has previously finished second twice in ICRA Division Three is hoping Galway will be third time lucky. Among those travelling from the east coast is past ICRA champion Richard Colwell from Howth in the Corby 25 Fusion.

Stonehaven RacingJohnny Callanan’s Stonehaven Racing competes in Class Three

The Dublin boat is one of four Corby 25s competing that includes the WIORA champion, Johnny Callanan’s Stonehaven Racing.

Quest Quarter tonnerGood upwind sail trim and boat balance on the Quarter tonner, Quest Photo: Fiona Brown

In class four, Barry Cunningham's Quest is one of two Quarter Tonners racing from the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire. Cunningham's crew recently finished 25th in the massive 1204–Boat Round the Island Race in the UK in July. Former Dun Laoghaire Regatta Boat of the Week winner and a past J24 Champion, Flor O'Driscoll is competing in 'Hard on Port', one of eight J24s racing that makes up the 11-boat division.

Yannick Mini 650 4541 1The smallest boat Round Ireland record holder is entered in class five of next week's ICRA national championships Photo: David O'Brien

All of the ten boats in class five are west coast based with half the fleet hailing from Foynes Yacht Club. It's a diverse bunch made up from boats such as Yannick Lemonnier's Transat 6.5 Proto, West sails, Pat Keating's Westerly Fulmar Excalibur and Kieran Ruane's freshwater entry of the Sun Odyssey 32.2 Christina from Garrykennedy Sailing Club on Lough Derg.

Provisional Divisions for ICRA/WIORA 2018

Sail Number Boat Name Owner Boat Type Boat Club Division
Division 1        
IRL5077 Freya Conor Doyle Xp50 Kinsale Yacht Club 1
IRL9292 Now What Lauren Heskin/Jim Grealish DUBOIS 33 Royal St George Yacht Club 1
IRL2129 NIEULARGO Denis & Annamarie Murphy Grand Soleil 40 B+C Royal Cork Yacht Club 1
GBR9498R Joie de Vie Silvie Blazkova / Glenn Cahill J/109 Galway Bay Sailing Club 1
IRL 7234 Hero Adrian O'Connell Humphries 3/4 Tonner Royal Western Yacht Club Of Ireland 1
IRL1206 Joker 2 John Maybury J/109 Royal Irish Yacht Club 1
IRL673 Lean Machine Cormac Mac Donncha J/35 Galway Bay Sailing Club 1
IRL1514 Zallaq Emmet & Duncan Kerin First 36.7 Royal Western Yacht Club Of Ireland 1
IRL1754 Green Monkey (WIORA Only) Stephen O'Gorman 1720 Galway Bay Sailing Club 1
GBR2750R Galway Flyer Erin Killeen SJ 320 MOD Bermudian Sloop Galway City Sailing Club 1
Division 2        
FRA21711 Tribal Liam Burke Farr 31 Galway Bay Sailing Club 2
IRL7386 Port of Galway Martin Breen Dehler 37 CR Galway Bay Sailing Club 2
IRL17200 Antix Beag A O Leary Custom 1720 Royal Cork Yacht Club 2
NED7950 Jaguar Gary Fort J/92s Tralee Bay Sailing Club 2
IRL1516 Gambit Joe Kiernan Sigma 38 Foynes Yacht Club 2
IRL7066 X-Rated John Gordon X-332 Mayo Sailing Club 2
IRL3330 Artful Dodger Finbarr O Regan Elan 333 Kinsale Yacht club 2
IRL26026 Ruthless Conor Ronan Corby 26 Sligo Yacht Club 2
GBR54354R Miss Whiplash Ronan & John Downing Mod Half Tonner Andrieu Royal Cork Yacht Club 2
IE8598 Exlixer Pat Alyward X372 Mayo Sailing Club 2
Division 3        
IRL3864 Ibaraki Mike Guilfoyle Westerley GK 34 Mod Galway Bay Sailing Club 3
IRL3062 CROZZ Gerry Daly ELAN 31 Mayo sailing Club 3
IRL2552 Fusion Colwell & Cobbe Corby 25 Howth Yacht Club 3
GBR6655r Daffodil - Stonehaven Racing Callanan & Team   Royal Western Yacht Club Of Ireland/Kinsale Yacht Club 3
IRL25007 Smile Rob Allen Corby 25 RWYCI/GBSC 3
Irl487 Disaray Ray Mc Gibney   Foynes Yacht Club 3
IRL1552 Movita Conn Lavelle Beneteau First 310 Mayo Sailing Club 3
GBR9656R Team NUI Galway Aaron O'Reilly First Class 8 NUIG 3
IRL1398 Wardance Sean Hawkshaw Sigma 33 Mullaghmore Sailing Club 3
GBR6566 RhocStar Lorraine Scully Formula 28 Galway Bay Sailing Club 3
IRL4206 Powder Monkey Liam Lynch Sigma33 Tralee Bay Sailing Club 3
Division 4        
GBR7028N Lady Laura Edward Enright Hunter 707 Foynes Yacht Club 4
ITA8709 Cri-Cri Paul Colton Jezequel Quarter Tonner Royal Irish Yacht Club 4
IRL508 Quest B Cunningham & J Skerritt Humphreys 1/4 ton Royal Irish Yacht Club 4
IRL4202 Gossip Brian Raftery J/24 Sligo Yacht Club 4
4188 Jasper Michael Lynch J/24 Foynes Yacht Club 4
IRL4212 Scandal HYC K25 J/24 Howth Yacht Club 4
IRL874 Running Tide David Brennan J/24 Galway Bay Sailing Club 4
IRL4794 Hard on Port Flor O'Driscoll J/24 Royal Irish Yacht Club 4
IRL5278 Gala Racing Simon McGibney J/24 Foynes Yacht Club 4
IRL4252 Jibe Fergus Kelliher J/24 Tralee Bay Sailing Club 4
IRL1558 Freebird Duncan Sclare Achillies 9m Mayo Sailing Club 4
Division 5        
TBC SHONAGH John O Brien Dufour 365 Mayo Sailing club 5
IRL9998 Christina Kieran Ruane Sun Odyssey 32.2 Garrykennedy Sailing Club 5
FR278 Excalibur P & E Keating Westerly Fulmar Foynes Yacht Club 5
K5552 Roamer Frankie Leonard Contessa 32 Galway Bay Sailing Club/Galway City Sailing Club 5
IRL1929 Lea Ho Conor Dodd Yamaha 29 Galway Bay Sailing Club 5
IRL723 Poitin Bev Lowes Shipman 28 Foynes Yacht Club 5
37 Kerry Dream Tom Murray Kerry Sloop 27 Foynes Yacht Club 5
3564Y Scorpio IV David Bevan Sadler 32 Foynes Yacht Club 5
IRL5147 Battle John Paul Buckley Golden Shamrock Foynes Yacht Club 5
491 West Sails Yannick Lemonnier Mini Transat 6.5 Proto Galway Bay Sailing Club 5

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From Thursday 16 August, Galway Bay Sailing Club hosts Ireland’s national cruiser racing championships for the first time — and a significant turnout is expected from clubs all along the West Coast.

As David O'Brien writes in the Irish Times today here, the upcoming ICRA Cruiser Nationals are, as the association’s Commodore Simon McGibney puts it, a “reminder of the resurgence of the sailing scene in the West”.

McGibney — also of Foynes Yacht Club at the mouth of the Shannon — lobbied hard for Galway to host the event following the success of 2013’s championships at Tralee Bay, which attracted a 61-strong fleet to the first Western-hosted nationals in ICRA history.

Simon McGibneyICRA Commodore Simon McGibney – delivering a boost to West Coast sailing

Indeed, nine of the 15 yacht clubs represented in this year’s entry list is based in the West — and both the host club and Foynes will be sending 11 boats each.

Given that four-fifths of the cruiser fleet is based on the East Coast, and that the event faces competition from Calves Week among others, that’s no mean feat.

Freya Xp 50 GalwayConor Doyle's Xp 50 Freya berthed in Galway Docks ahead of the ICRA Nationals next week. Photo: Aoife Mackey

Meanwhile, as smaller clubs like Garrykennedy and Mullaghmore are taking the opportunity to get noticed on the national scene, smaller boats will also be at the fore in Galway Bay next week.

Corby 25s, J24s and quarter tonners fill out a list of entries that includes the long-standing Class 1 champion Joker II, the J109 sailed by John Maybury who will be defending his title for the third year in a row.

Three other national titles will be decided along with the West of Ireland regionals which kick off what promises to be an exciting few days of racing from Wednesday 15 August

Sailing Instructions and class divisions are downloadable below.

The Nationals and the West Coast Championships are being held between the 15th and 18th of August and feature four days of action packed sailing and social events.

ICRA Nationals schedule of racesThe ICRA National Championships schedule of races

Captain Brian Sheridan from the Port of Galway has generously arranged free cranage and berthage for the duration of the event.

Class divisions in the fleet are expected shortly and will be posted on

The ICRA National Championships Sailing Instructions are downloadable below as a PDF file

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15 years have passed since a small group of Cork and Dublin sailors met at the Granville Hotel in Waterford to establish the Irish Cruiser Racing Association. In the intervening years, ICRA has had great success co-ordinating Irish yacht racing at home and abroad. caught up with Ric Morris, the recently elected ICRA strategist, and asked him for the latest on the cruiser-racing body in advance of its – just-launched – National Championships in Galway.  In recent years the demands on the association have changed. Irish Sailing too has begun to look to the association to take on a broader role. The association is responding to these changing needs through a refreshed five-year plan. The question now for ICRA is how can it add value to what’s already going on in Irish sailing? 

Ric Morris sailingRic Morris (left) says ICRA has to 'deliver for everyone' Photo: courtesy Andy Green

Ric, After a turbulent winter, these are interesting times for ICRA?

I only joined the exec in January and yes it’s been interesting! It’s good to have done an EGM. Everyone felt strongly about that. And that we should hold a formal AGM each year so the exec is held directly responsible going forward. There’s a good mix on the exec now of new and old. Meetings have been good to be involved with. All business.

The question over the winter has been, why should people care about ICRA, is it even needed?
It’s easy to forget what the situation was like before there was an ICRA. Regattas are great but we lacked a championship event that put yacht racing on a level playing field with other forms of sailing. If you look at what ICRA representatives have achieved since in terms of the All Irelands it puts that in perspective. There’s still a strong demand for an ICRAs as a national championship, focused on quality competitive racing. How best to deliver that is getting a lot of thought. Part of having a great competition means everyone being there. That probably needs a different solution depending on where the event is. The link with the All Irelands is something to pay attention too. It’ll be good to see the All Irelands back in a keelboat class soon. There are technical challenges in terms of IRC and ECHO that need looking after where the voice of owners needs to be heard. But I think ICRAs biggest achievement has been as a forum for co-operation, and long may that continue. I should’ve given the short answer first: people should care because everyone with an ECHO/IRC cert is paying an ICRA membership.

That brings its own pressures …
It does. It means ICRA has to deliver for everyone, and that’s reflected in what we’re presenting today. Former Commodore Nobby Reilly started that process with the national crew pool and training grant, and that’s been identified in the strategic review as something to build upon going forward.
We want to expand upon that. Open up the range of initiatives we’ll fund, so long as they are aimed at delivering more tightly defined objectives.
For instance, the evidence shows that well-structured under 25s programs pay dividends for the sport. We supported the club run under 25s teams at the J24 nationals and intend to do so again for Galway.

So where are things up to with this strategic review, a 5-year plan? Is that really necessary?
That comes back to the previous point in terms of agreeing and communicating what ICRA is and what it should be doing. That’s really what today is about. Setting out what ICRA is about, what we should be at, putting that in a relevant context.
Why five years? Given the money people commit to their boats, there’s a need to show how we’re going to deliver sustained value. Any changes need to be flagged well in advance so they can be factored into peoples plans.

'Embracing Yacht Racing'?
Putting our arms around the wide range of members needs, and the passion that people have for the sport. And it rhymes. Can’t go wrong with a rhyming tagline.
There was a discussion about using the word yacht. That it carries an off-putting message. I think that may have changed. For instance one of the biggest parties in the Med each year is called 'Yacht Week' and that’s promoted to a general and youthful audience.
In the end, though we’re not going to change any negative prejudice by hiding. The opposite in fact. Irrespective of what label we put on it, people think we sail yachts. No one knows what a cruiser racer is unless you’re already involved. If we’re looking to bring people into our sport, and we are, then we need to use the language they understand.

"Irrespective of what label we put on it, people think we sail yachts"

When I look at the mission and strategic goals, in particular, it all seems pretty obvious, one person called it dated.
I’d prefer straightforward and common sense but yeh I’ll go with obvious. Over the last couple of months, we’ve taken a step back and looked at what any other class association does, what the best ones focus on and where things are in Ireland. It’s not rocket science. The devil is in the detail. For instance, to run a nationals that’s “the pinnacle of yacht racing” has some implications for where and when you hold it. “Enjoyment and fun” is quite none specific so we’ve looked to express in more detail what people enjoy about yacht racing. And that’s what we’ll focus on.

A series of regional ICRA events?
We’ve already touched on the issue of relevance. ICRA turns up somewhere, runs a nationals and then disappears again. There’s a need to be engaged more regularly so that doesn’t happen; so that ICRA stays connected and has a vested interest in what’s going on. At the same time, there needs to be a boundary to what ICRA should and shouldn’t get involved with. We can’t, and shouldn’t seek to take on everything. Rather play our part working with the clubs, sailing industry and Irish Sailing.

"How can ICRA add value to what’s already there, to support what’s already going on?"

But the calendar is already pretty full…
We’re blessed that there’s already a calendar of established events. The question is more; how can ICRA add value to what’s already there, to support what’s already going on?

What’s next?
The next step is to look to turn this into a workable plan with a view to having a draft to circulate at the Nationals in mid-August. If anyone is keen to be involved they are most welcome.

Link to the ICRA strategy here Link to's ICRA latest news here

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